Food planning

Food & Water

Start planning your menu. The safest way of travelling is to eat your own food. Cooked food bought at food stalls in Africa should be avoided.

Southern Africa does have large towns with good quality shops and fresh food. The standard grocers are Spar, Shoprite and Choppies and at least one is available in most towns. These stores also normally sell water and cold drinks.

An easy way to provide food for yourself is to take frozen cooked foods. Make your favourite stew and freeze the portions. In camp you can then cook rice or use frozen cooked rice and have a nice dinner in 30 mins. Cooked foods will also not be confiscated at the veterinary gates. Freezing food in the strong flat based Tuffy soup bags or other containers like the foil containers or plastic airtight containers is the best way to do it. If you use bags, the bags are strong and can just be dumped in a pot of hot water to heat up the food. Beware of the sandwich bags that does not like to be dumped in hot water, their seams might burst.

Planning the menu

We are on holiday and it should also feel like we are on holiday. Food however can sometimes upset the system and spoil a good time. Camping and cooking for yourself is not difficult. It is important to remember that you have to adjust the menu to your fridge capacity, possibility of the freezer not working well, veterinary gate issues etc. Accept that you are in the bush and change your mind set to healthy, pleasant and quick.

How do I do it?

I work in cycles of 7 days, assume I will eat in a restaurant once a week leaves me with 6 meals to plan, assume a braai once a week leaves me with 5 meals to plan. Pick your 5 most favourite stews, Beef stroganoff,  Chicken alla king, lamb rogan josh or whatever.

Now just repeat the cycle in multiples of 7, ie If you are doing a 14 day trip you just double up on the cycle.

We generally will leave our camp in the mornings at 7.30 or 8am. so the bacon and egg skottel braai will not really be suitable unless you are an early riser.

Lunch will be under a tree next to the road for 30 mins or so. Bring a flask to cary hot water, but I will also boil a kettle if necessary for those interested in coffee/tea.

I will have a fire available every night for a braai wood allowing, but it does not mean you have to braai every night.

You are welcome to eat whatever you want to eat, you just need to manage the time around it.

A few things about meals.

  • Try not to take food that will take too long to prepare. Potjie sounds great but can be the cause of a very late night.
  • On one or two days we will have late arrivals ( 5-6pm ) and then it would be good to have pre prepared food that we can just heat up, like frozen curry or mince or something. Otherwise have a meal planned for a late arrival.
  • Rice and pasta are very quick to cook and also very filling.
  • Pre frozen meals from woollies can be very helpful.
  • I normally keep one meal of tinned food for emergencies.
  • Breakfast cereals are great for breakfast or lunch next to the road.
  • Oatso easy, 2 minute noodles good to remember.
  • Tinned fruit, cold boerewors, dried fruits, tuna meals also serve as fast lunches.
  • Avoid glass bottles where possible, take your beer in cans for the trip. Easier to discard and it cannot break in your vehicle
  • Remember rubbish bags.

Veterinary gates when crossing borders in to other countries.

Veterinary gates are operational in Botswana, Namibia and some other of the southern Africa border crossings. It is best to assume that your fridge will be checked for raw meats of cloven hoofed animals at border crossings. Foot and mouth disease is the big issue and is carried by cloven hoofed animals, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs etc. Fruit and vegetables might be confiscated to prevent the spread of fruit flies.

The rule is that the mentioned goods may not be transported between zones if a control is in place. This means that even if you buy these goods in the town before the vet gate, vacuum packed, sealed with a local grocer stamp on it, it may not cross that border. It is all about prohibited foods crossing a line. The biggest oops is holiday makers buying a bag of oranges just before the border in South Africa and having it confiscated by Botswana officials 5 km further at the border.  

The second very important point, the foodstuff is only prohibited from crossing the line, in other words when something “illegal” is found in your fridge at the checkpoints, you have done nothing wrong and the food may not be confiscated. However it is not allowed to cross the line. So before crossing the line you may eat it, cook it or hand it over for confiscation. Please do not make a fool of yourself by throwing the food on the ground or urinating on the meat or doing something stupid. Rules are rules.

Fish and chicken (unless a bird flu scare is in place), cooked meats and foods and tinned foods are also normally safe to take through the gates. I have had an issue with raw chicken recently and would advise it best to take your chicken cooked.

These days I just stick to cooked foods, it is less hassle than a braai, and it is home cooked meals. Woolies does these days have very nice precooked meals that you can Microwave or heat in a pot.

Fruit should also be transported with care. A fruit fly scare is the reason for fruit being confiscated from time to time.


The best way of taking drinking water is in used 2 litre cold drink bottles, they are strong, cheap and you can find many places to pack them when you start packing.

Water in southern Africa is generally available, it is just the quality that is an issue. Mark your drinking water bottles and take care not to contaminate them.

Generally water can be purchased as we travel through towns. In a worst case scenario 10 litre water per person for drinking, washing and cooking in your vehicle per person per day should be fine.

To purify water, 5ml Jic per litre, or purifying tablets or drops, or boiling water for 5  mins works.